How To Become A Runner (For Non-Runners)

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

It wasn’t long ago that I viewed runners as a bizarre mix of health nuts and madmen. The thought of running down the block, let alone running a marathon was absurd and laughable. And these people say they even enjoy it! Uh huh. Keep telling yourself that, guys.

Then the bizarre happened. I became a runner.

Wait, what? How do you go from hating and ridiculing an entire sport to loving it to the point of writing about and extolling its benefits? Well, I’ll admit, it was tough at first, but I found a bunch of tricks that made it fun and easy, and it wasn’t long until I was hooked. Want to know what they are? OK, here ya go!

Be Honest With Yourself

If you’ve never been a runner, or used to run but haven’t in years, you’re going to have to face the fact that you’re probably more out of shape than you thought. This may even be the case if you’re otherwise active since running is a different motion to  other sports.

Once you accept that you’re an absolute beginner, it becomes easier to make the right choices when you learn how to run. As much as you’d probably like to do it, you’re probably not going to head out the door and knock off 5k nonstop. The reality is that you’re likely going to find that 30 seconds of running is a challenge.

Take it slow at first. Book in 30 minutes of exercise for each session, but don’t expect to run this whole time right off the bat. Start by walking 5 minutes then lightly jogging 30 seconds, then repeating. Once you’ve done this, you will have a better idea of where you’re at, and you can play with the walking/running bits until you find the right combination.

Improve At Each Session

One of the big mistakes that new runners end up doing is picking a route and just running it, then going home. They ‘put in the hours’ running, and think that’s enough. The problem with this approach is that all it does is get you used to running one distance at one speed.

To get better as a runner, you need to be constantly pushing your limits.

So, for each of your running sessions, aim to improve on your previous best. Run a little longer, or a little faster. Each little improvement will get you one step closer to being a good runner, and once you’ve achieved this, you will almost certainly find that you actually enjoy running!

Track Your Progress

It may feel like you’re not making any progress, but when you look back and see just how far you’ve come, it can be a real boost. A great way to help you gain this perspective is to track every workout.

Get yourself a journal or open a spreadsheet and track your distance run, and time running. You can be as simple or fancy as you like, but the main thing is to try to give yourself some record of your progress.

In as short as 6 weeks, if you stick with it and push yourself a little each session, I guarantee you’ll look back and laugh at how bad you were and smile at how much you’ve improved.

Go Slower Than You Think You Can

Another big mistake that new runners make is to take off as fast as they can, or faster than they should. They start at a good pace and it feels fine, but within a short time, they’re huffing and puffing, and probably swearing and cursing the sport of running.

So, when you’re first starting out, just take it easy. A neat little trick is to make sure you’re breathing only through your nose. If you find yourself needing to mouth-breathe, it means you’re pushing a little too hard. Slow down, get your nose going again, and keep on jogging.

Alternatively, if you are running with a friend, try to keep a pace that allows you to speak to each other as you run. This will make sure you’re not overdoing it, and let you run further.

Take Small Steps

When you start running, it’s best to get into good habits right away. This will help you avoid injuries and run more efficiently, which will in turn help you become a better runner faster. There are millions of lines written about good running form out there, and once you’ve become addicted to it, you’ll find the resources you need.

In the meantime, focus on just one thing: small steps. Taking small steps will automatically improve your form and stop you from making a number of very common mistakes in form. Your feet will land under your centre of gravity, and you will run a little slower.

As you get more confident and your running base builds, you will find your stride naturally lengthening, but at first, try to keep those steps small, and you will be rewarded.

Make It Enjoyable

Lastly, when you run with a smile on your face, it’s hard not to want to keep going back. There are a lot of ways to make running fun. Try running with friends, or signing up for a race. There are a lot of fun, themed races, like Zombie runs, mud runs, and obstacle courses. Likewise, there are scenic runs, and runs that attract thousands of people.

If you’re a big nerd like me, you might find that tinkering with your form as you run is enough of a distraction to keep you interested.

Once you get through the first 6 or so weeks, or hit one of the big mile markers like the 5k, running becomes truly addictive. Give it a chance, work within your limits, keep improving, and try your best to make it enjoyable, and you too will become one of those crazy running people you’ve heard so much about!

Review: Skora Form Shoes

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Skora FormWhere do I start with this one? I’ve been dying to try out a pair of the much-lauded Skora shoes, but living down-under, I had a hard time tracking down a pair. On my recent visit to Canada, however, I finally managed to convince the lovely folks at Skora to let me give their latest ‘Form’ shoes a test run.

First Impressions

Normally I don’t pay much attention to packaging, but when I unwrapped the parcel that the shoes came in, I couldn’t help but smile. The box they come in is just lovely, and has a handy magnetic clasp, which means that finding a future use for it should be easy.

Skora BoxThe shoes themselves are beautifully crafted, which is obvious as soon as you lay your eyes on them.

Oh, and they smell lovely. There I said it.

Included in the box was the 2 shoes, with inserts (more on these later), a spare set of laces, and a sticker. I’m always stoked when I get extra stuff, so the laces and sticker were a nice surprise.

Construction

Skora SolesIf I was to try to describe them to somebody who’s never worn them before, I’d say the Skora Form are like a modernised version of the old-fashioned leather racing flats. This lends them a really classic feel, and had me dreaming that I was in Chariots of Fire. But I digress.

The leather uppers conform beautifully to the contours of the feet, and the well laid out lacing only improves on this.

The soles are quite a bit thicker than some of the other shoes I’ve reviewed on this site. This can be lessened somewhat by removing the insoles. The quality construction of the shoes make this a non-issue and they are just as comfortable with or without them in.

What’s interesting to note is that even though the soles have a bit of thickness, it’s mainly made of harder rubber, not the squishy foam of modern runners. This allows for significantly more ground feel than say, the Nike Frees.

Performance

Skora Forms TopWe’ve established that these are some fancy-looking, well-built shoes, but do they perform? I’ve spent the past month putting them through their paces in a variety of conditions. Overall, I’d have to say that my impression is very favourable.

Roads

Really where the Skora Forms perform well is on the road. Hard-wearing and light, putting road miles on them is as easy as walking out the door. Most of the miles I put on them were on the road, and I enjoyed them all. I found that removing the insoles were best for road running as it improves ground-feel significantly and slightly reduces the overall weight of the shoes.

Trails

On light trails, the Forms were good, though I have to admit I was a bit sad to get them dirty at first! I did a few muddier and hillier runs in them and found that they did slip a bit. In all honesty, I will likely save these shoes for road runs and races down the track and use a more specialised shoe for these conditions.

Walking

Though they’re running shoes, I have to say that I’ve immensely enjoyed walking in the Forms. Leaving the insole in gives a little bit more heel protection which allows for easy long-distance walking. I’ve taken to wearing them wherever I go, as they’re extremely comfortable, and they’re wife-approved in the aesthetics department.

Overall Impressions

Overall I was well pleased to have had the chance to try out a pair of Skora Forms. They’re exceedingly comfy and look great. Performance-wise I found them to be very nice to run in and they seem to be pretty wear-resistant so far.

If I could change one thing about the shoes, I’d definitely prefer a slightly thinner sole, as even with carefully engineered soles and specialised padding, the ground-feel could be greatly improved. I look forward to a more minimal version of these shoes down the track.

Skora Forms are excellent, well-designed shoes. I’d recommend them for more advanced runners who have perfected their running form and are looking for a hard-wearing go-to road shoe. If these shoes are any indication of things to come out of the Skora factory, then we’re in for some great things ahead.

A Beginner’s Guide To Racing Barefoot

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

There’s something unreal about running your first barefoot race. It’s hard to describe, but even for people who have completed dozens of shod races, the first barefoot one is something special.

Racing barefoot is an amazing experience, but it can be quite different to racing in shoes. To help get you through your first race, here are a few tips that will help ensure that your first race a safe one, and make your experience one to remember.

Training Is Essential

Before you even think about stepping foot on that race course, it’s essential to do your training, and do it well. When you’re out there amongst the push of other racers, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and overdo it.

Training lets your body get used to the stresses and strains involved in barefoot running and will help you keep your head when you’re racing.

When training for a race, it’s great to have a plan that incorporates distance running, speed work, and hills. It’s also important to get a feel for the pace that you intend to run during the race. This can be really important to ensure that you don’t get swept up by the crowd and have your race plan go out the window.

Extra training for barefoot racing would also need to include running on similar terrain to that which you expect to encounter during the race. This is essential, especially for trail runs, as it will help prepare your soles and supporting muscles for the demands required on race day.

Know The Course

For barefoot runners, the unknown can cause serious trouble. If you know what to expect, it’s much easier to prepare for it, or avoid it, than if you don’t. Never is this more true than with race road conditions.

Knowing what sort of terrain to expect in a race is possibly the most important consideration that must be met before signing up for a race. So often, barefoot runners sign up for races that are well within their abilities distance-wide, but that prove to be too tough for their soles to handle.

This is often the case with city-based runs that may seem easy on the surface. Running on pavement is generally easier on the feet than running on trails, but all it takes is one long stretch of rough asphalt to turn a fun race day into a nightmare.

Find The Best Spot

Half the battle when racing barefoot is choosing the best spot to run. When you’re training, it’s easy to select the best route and to clearly see the path ahead of you.

When you’re racing, however, your visibility is limited by the people in front of you, your path may be blocked by others, and you may even get your feet stepped on.

The biggest challenge will come at the beginning of the race when everyone is all bunched together. At this point, your focus should be on finding the right groove to run on. For a road race, the best spot is often right in the middle, where you can step on the lines that are painted on the road. These lines can be a life-saver on rough roads, so keep an eye out for them.

Another trick for navigating the early stages is to sneak in behind a pair or side-by-side runners. There will usually be a gap in between them that will allow you to see more of the road up ahead. This will help you avoid debris while keeping your head up as much as possible.

Once you get through the early stages and runners begin to drift apart, take the opportunity to find the best, most comfortable route, and turn on the speed!

Use Your Senses

Even in optimal situations, when running barefoot, it’s really important to be aware of your surroundings. In the chaos of a race, this is even more essential as it can mean the difference between a fun and safe race, and one with the potential to cause injury.

Start by leaving the iPod at home. For longer races especially, the allure of music is very appealing, however it can lull you into a false sense of security which may pose problems.

When you have your ears open, you will be able to hear marshal instructions and more easily spot trouble. As an added bonus, you can also hear the cheers of friends and family at the sidelines. Don’t be surprised if you get asked a ton of questions, even in the middle of the race. You’ll probably find that most comments are overwhelmingly positive, but if you hear any negativity, just ignore it and focus on your race.

During your training, work on running without earphones to get used to it. You’ll likely end up finding that once you give it a go, you’ll never go back.

Hearing is important, but sight is even more so. We touched on this above, but it bears repeating. You’ll want to be continuously scanning the ground for debris, and finding spots that allow you to see further.

By being aware of your surroundings you’ll decrease the chances of stepping on something bad, or being stepped on by someone else.

Don’t Forget The Usual Stuff

When focusing on barefoot running, it can be easy to forget some of the simple things. During the race, pay a mind to your hydration and food intake, especially for longer races.

Get to the start line early and find a good spot.

Oh, and don’t forget to go to the bathroom beforehand!

Racing barefoot is exhilarating and can be just the thing to rekindle your interest in racing, or give you the impetus to get out there and run your first race. The key is being prepared and mindful of your environment. Do this, and you’ll have a great time, and will have a memory that you can cherish forever.

Southern Migration

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

So that’s it, the World Tour of Vancouver is over, and we’re heading back to Sydney! Hopefully this will mean the resumption of a more frequent posting schedule from next week.

We’re about to hop on a plane, so no article today, but in the meantime we’ve got you covered with a guest post over at Diesel Crew: Lift Better, Lift Barefoot.

Enjoy the article – I’ll see you in Australia!

Dawsy